EDUS 660 #10: From the First Aid kit to the Tool Box

Now that you’ve explored Community Based Participatory Research (Action Research) and read about an actual example of how this approach was used to bring about change in a community, think about a community problem.  This could be a problem in your home town or one in the City of Richmond or wherever.  Describe the problem and discuss how an Action Research approach might be used to address this problem. Would you be interested in participating in an Action Research initiative like this?  Why or why not?  Tag action.

When I lived in Philadelphia it was common to see individuals who lived on the street.  Shopping carts packed to the brim accompanied an individual from location to location.  These individuals line the walks leading to the subway.  The pace of most commuters, like me, was rather fast paced.  Everyone in a city has someone that they needed to be 10 minutes ago and rarely does one see individuals meandering along the streets interacting with those individuals sleeping on benches or along the base of a building.Panhandler

I’ve lived in Charlottesville since 1996 and saw individuals panhandling on the Downtown Mall, however, I had not seen them on the corner of an intersection until two years ago.  Area residents encounter individuals standing on several key intersections of the city on a daily basis now.The Urban Dictionary defines panhandling as a synonym for begging, sponging and spanging. Aggressive panhandling could engage an individual in soliciting donations in an inappropriate or intimidating manner. While I have never witnessed aggression, that is not to say that it doesn’t happen.

Early in 2015, a judge in Charlottesville ruled that panhandling is protected by the 1st Amendment, which guarantees an individual’s right to free speech.  It seems to me, that there are greater social issues and concerns at stake here that may be masked as Free Speech protection.

Our community probably isn’t any different than others when stating that there are individuals who are genuinely homeless. I am sure that there were students in my school who were homeless.  Guidance Counselors and administration are careful to protect the privacy of students and family members, which is why I can not bring a name to mind.  What I can recall, is a concerted effort on the part of members of the Charlottesville community to provide temporary shelter for such individuals.

Homelessness is a community problem as opposed to an individual problem. Those without the means to shelter themselves or their family members may struggle on many levels. My friend’s son is disabled and unable to work at this time.  He doesn’t panhandle for his support because he has a strong family that embraces him. What happens to those individuals without a safety net?

The issue of homelessness is one that affects many members of this community.  PACEM is the latin word for Peace.  Congregations in the Charlottesville area created “People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry” as a way to provide shelter for homeless individuals during the winter months.  According to their website, there are 80 faith congregations (inclusive of all out there) and 3,000 volunteers who come together each year.  Intervention is a crucial first step when providing assistance to those in need.  Unfortunately, it is often a social band-aid that covers a problem rather than as stepping stone to lead towards prevention. The issue of homelessness, that “may” lead to panhandling would make a suitable topic for a Community Based Participatory-Research program.

The Community Tool Box, organized by Kansas University, suggests that research should “enlist those who are most affected by a community issue-typically in collaboration or partnership with others who have research skills-to conduct research on and analyze that issue….” The checklist provided in the second section of the toolbox is an effective tool for someone who is considering how this social problem could be addressed by the community.

A few of the key components of the check-list that struck me as important to consider beyond the normal scope of planning

Why?  Action research trains citizen researchers who can turn their skills to other problems as well.-

  • transitioning from homeless to resident brings a different set of problems to solve.  Citizens need tools at their disposal to help solve new problems.

Involvement in CBPR changes people’s perceptions of themselves and of what they can do-

  • we all act on our perceptions-those who become empowered to make their own changes change how they view themselves! Individuals who are or were homeless provide a new lens through which to view the issue.

A participatory action research process can help to break down racial, ethnic, and class barriers-

  • barriers are evident in all communities, even those created by homeless individuals

Who should be involved in community-based participatory research?

  • how often are decisions made for individuals affected by an issue rather than including them in the planning?
  • the CITI training opened my eyes to the importance of including academics in the decision planning, someone needs to know what is and is not allowed, someone needs to carry the banner of “Do No Harm!” The training was very specific regarding several subgroups of the population, however, homeless individuals may need consideration as well.
  • the individuals who agree to engage in CBPR are a team. They need a facilitator who is trained to work with them!

The community toolbox was a nice surprise as this social research course nears completion.  I found many useful ideas, such as the Windshield and Walking Surveys section in chapter 3/section 21, that I might suggest that a team use to consider if homelessness is legitimately an issue worth pursuing-

There's much one can learn about a community by simply looking through a windshield.
There’s much one can learn about a community by simply looking through a windshield.

The easiest and quickest way to get an overview of the entire community-what is the nature of the community?

It might help me to get a better of the areas where homeless individuals may congregate, but how would the team do so without being obtrusive? How can a team do this?

Would a team be welcome to observe the communities where homeless individuals live? Is there any value in doing so?

Kurt Lewin’s theories of participatory action research is an interesting component of Change Strategies for human resource development.  Lewin suggested that there must be a “felt need” strong enough to propel the group to move forward. In order to analyze an issue correctly, it would be important to include those individuals who are directly involved in or who have knowledge of homelessness. Those involved in the issue have a perspective that’s necessary to drive change.

Considering the skills needed to facilitate a group or team are also components of the Adult Learning program at VCU.  I enjoy the processes that an adult educator would use as a member of a Community Based Participatory Research program.Homelessness as an issue is not one that is pressing concern for me at this stage in my life.  In the event that it does become so, I know that I have the skills necessary to serve as a participant on a team.

As far as the issue of homelessness is concerned, I believe that this type of program would be a suitable step to transition from intervention to prevention.  It’s time to move from the band aide to the toolbox as a way to solve problems.

Something to chew on-

How did you select the “issue” that you wrote about in your blog?

What might you learn about the issue if you conducted a Windshield or Walking survey through your community?

Resource-

Gallos, J. V., & Schein, E. H. (2006). Organization development: a Jossey-Bass reader. Jossey-Bass.

EDUS 660 #9: No time for the Rabbit Hole

Food for Thought blog response.  Remember to think like a researcher and use what you’ve been learning as you respond:

Review all of the blogs to date posted on this classes’ rampages.us course site.  What might you do to analyze these blogs?  What types of things might you want to research and draw conclusions about regarding the types of posts, the students who post, etc?  Tag qualitative.

I have a file of ideas for future blogs.  Would it be nice to highlight the ideas and press the "Blog" button on a keyboard?
I have a file of ideas for future blogs. Would it be nice to highlight the ideas and press the “Blog” button on a keyboard?

There is a sign on a wall in the bottom floor of Oliver Hall which reads,  “Teacher as Reflective Practioner.” Several floors above the lobby is a poster which displays the details of a study regarding the impact of reflection and blogging on the part of the educator.  Blogging was a new concept for me when I entered the MEd program. I heard the word but had neither read nor written a blog.

Reflecting on what I am doing as a student meanings considering myself as central to the learning process. Reflection “in” action on a weekly basis is sometimes very challenging for me.  While writing is rarely a struggle, synthesizing my ideas in a very short period of time as we do for this research design course, makes me feel as though I am racing through a roller coaster of topics with relatively little time to stop and meander through a topic with time to dig a rabbit hole.

When considering what my classmates have written, these consistencies are expected within each-

  • a unique title
  • the question you are responding to
  • a quote or an image from the reading/web
  • a follow-up question at the end
  • a link to another resource outside of the course
  • and the section category and topic tag

The parameters for this component of the class were both comfortable and useful for me.  This is the first course where I have been given a topic for a blog as opposed to creating blogs of my own choice. The common thread throughout the blogs helps to unify reflections while providing, hopefully, a means for a common discussion. What makes the blogs both unique and interesting is how individuals personalize their writing.  Some blogs are very personal and written in a casual manner while others are rather academic in nature.  The inclusion of a question, or “Something to chew on,” should engage the reader in further conversation about the topic.  Reading with a purpose provides a platform to build relationships, further discussion and engage one in reflection

In one of the supplementary video suggestions for this week, Qualitative Research Methods (27:08) by Daniel N Vivo Coding is used to help qualitative researchers to capture and code the essential components of a research story.  This course is my first exposure to N Vivo.  The tutorial in the supplemental video sources section would be a useful tool as a researcher. For the purpose of this assignment,  I might considering using a web tool such as Wordle  or the Tag Cloud generator from the Add-on section of my Google Drive. I could code data by themes, such as the tag for each week, to identify those words or phrases that prevalent in each week’s entry.  I might consider what makes the blog entries similar.  When looking for patterns, I might considering pulling direct quotes or groups of phrases that help to synthesize the ideas expressed by a particular group.

The enrollment of this class, while certainly smaller than a lecture course, is much larger than any of the seminar courses that I have taken as a graduate student.  I might find it more beneficial to consider looking at components within the class, such as the groupings of students by each professor.  As the groups are comprised of individuals from different disciplines and schools within the university, I might cluster those students from the same master’s program together to observe patterns in writing, thought and application of theoretical ideas from core disciplines. I might ask if there are links between theoretical concepts explored through a social research framework.  The lens of the practitioner, for example, social worker, adult educator, or  public administrator, may be a common thread more easily identifiable when students are clustered by graduate discipline.

Conducting a study of blogging as a form of reflective practice could lend itself to an interesting research study. In keeping with the expectation of “do no harm,” support of some students in an experimental group might consider which variables, beyond the initial parameters stated above, develop more reflective practitioners.  In this course, the type of post is determined by the professor.  The student is expected to respond appropriately to each post by meeting the expectations presented in the course site. If posting was optional, or if there was greater flexibility or choice of topic/method then one might find more variance in topic selection and participation. This variance might then be considered by graduate discipline, academic background, ethnicity and gender, for example.  A twelve-week course may not be a sufficient amount of time in which to conduct a study, however, it may provide the impetus for further study.

Dr. Terry Carter, the former chair of the Adult Learning program at VCU, published a collection of slides last week that summarize the concepts behind experiential learning, reflective practice and blogging as a strategy to engage students in their learning.

If conducting research regarding the types of posts and the students who post might make an interesting Blogging as a form of reflective practice may have been a very new idea to many of the students in the course. Blogging is an essential component of the Adult Learning student’s e-portfolio.   A survey before this course began as well as one at the conclusion of the course may help to understand the ways in which blogging may affect student researchers.  I can conclude from my own experience as a blogger, that the measure of the structure expected by the course has helped me to focus my engagement with topics that are relevant to educational research.

For more ideas about Reflective Practice, consider Argyris and Schon, two heroes of the Adult Learning world!

Something to chew on…

  How have you transitioned as a reflective practitioner through the blog prompts in this course?  In what way have the parameters been useful to you?  Is there one specific blog topic that was challenging for you in terms of theory, philosophy or concept?  Is there one topic that really resonated with you?

Blog Cartoon

EDUS 660#7: Survey Says…

Food for Thought-Survey

Pay attention to the news on TV, radio, news magazines and/or newspapers and online.  What types of surveys or polls made the news this past week?  What do you know about the sample used in these surveys or polls (e.g., sample size, sampling frame, target population, etc)?  What is your opinion of the sample that was used? 

June is the month for high school graduations in the US.  While my graduation was many (cough) years ago, a high school English teacher made one key point that I have never forgotten.  She said that no one would care what I thought until I attended graduate school. This remark is a rather sad and sobering thought to consider as I embarked upon my college career. Interestingly enough, an organization did exist during that time frame that wished to know what seniors thought, how they felt and what was of importance to them.

monitoring the futureMonitoring the Future, a national study of American youth seeks to understand a population in secondary and college settings as well as those considered young adults.  Since its inception in 1975 surveying 8th-grade students, it has grown to encompass those at the end of high school as well as to  conduct follow-up surveys with respondents who participated in previous studies. The end of high school represents an important milestone in development for students. The research team selected this age as it is a logical place in which to consider how the influence of public education along with living in a parental setting may affect the attitudes and behaviors of students.

Content Areas and Questionnaire Design-A significant portion of the survey focuses on substance use. Respondents do not view the questionnaire, according to the report, as being a “drug use study.”  Different questionnaires are distributed to the participants.  The sequence is ordered which produces subsamples that are virtually identical.  The core or common variables for each of the six forms comprises one-third of the questionnaire. Researchers are able to link the core set of measures with the demographic measures statistically to all of the other measures.  Representativeness and Validity-The samples for this study should represent high school students in the 48 coterminous states.  Those students who drop out before the end of the senior year are missing from the cohort. The research team identified four (4) ways in which the survey data may not be fully accurate.  Some schools refused to participate. 100 % participation was not fully achieved of students sampled which may cause bias.  The validity of the survey could be questioned if participants made conscious and unconscious distortions when responding to a question. The accuracy of estimates could possibly mean that there are limitations in sample size and or design.  When schools refused to participate, a replacement school was located. Replacement schools were selected to match geographic area, urbanicity etc. This is a two-year study with two data collections. (2012:23)

Measurement-attitudes regarding those that one would expect to find in a survey of high school seniors: drug use, alcohol consumption, cigarette usage are surveyed.There are twenty different categories in all. Included within the twenty is “Happiness!”

Closed-ended questions varied in format. For example,

Imagine being asked to consider how happy you are as a senior?  Is the rest of the world as interested or consummed by the notion of happiness?
Imagine being asked to consider how happy you are as a senior? Is the rest of the world as interested or consumed by the notion of happiness?

Happiness: Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days-would you say you’re very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days? (Bachman, Johnston, and O’Malley, 2012:

3. Very happy  2.  Pretty happy  1.  Not too happy

Babbie suggests that survey questions be clear for the respondent (2013: 250). The question written above is one that I would expect a high school respondent able and willing to answer. The verbiage reflects the manner in which students would speak to each other.

Finding purpose and meaning in my life

1.  Not important  2.  Somewhat important  3.  Quite important  4.  Extremely important.

This is an example of a question that should be relevant to a student concluding high school.  The results of this type of question are useful for social scientists when contemplating the values of future generations (Babbie 2013:252).

Contingency Questions provided written suggestions.  For example,

Have you ever smoked cigarettes?    1.  Never-GO TO Q B006.

Procedures for Protecting Confidentiality: The theme of confidentiality and voluntary participation is described to participants in a descriptive flyer. At the start of the questionnaire, the administrator reinforces this component as many of the questions, particularly in the section concerning drug use are very personal. Teachers are discouraged from walking around the classroom while the survey is being completed. Participants are told to leave blanks where there may be a question that is objectionable for any reason. Names and addresses or respondents, while coded, are not able to be traced to the participant.  Of interest is the fact that the research team indicates where the data is stored (University of Michigan) and that a summary of the findings is mailed to the participants.  Wow!  I’ve participated in numerous studies and have yet to receive a summary of the findings even after requesting one.  Some students receive follow-up questionnaires in the future.

While the study that I located doesn’t fully fit the suggestion for this week’s food for thought, I did find it extremely useful to me. My task is to complete the Sampling Worksheet for my research group’s project. One component of our sampling is to collect data from preteen students.  The Monitoring the Future Survey provides several formats to consider when constructing the questionnaire for Group 13’s research project. In my opinion, the instance to survey high school students certainly provides social scientists with data that has a far-reaching impact for society.

Something to Chew on-

  • As a high school senior, how candid would you be when responding to questions about drug and alcohol usage?
  • This questionnaire is administered during school hours.  If given the chance to complete this survey in private, would your responses be different than those completed during the school day?
  • How influential were your friends at this time in determining your beliefs and attitudes?

Sources:

Babbie, E. (2015). The practice of social research. Cengage Learning.

 Monitoring the Future Publications

Johnston, L. D., Bachman, J. G., O’Malley, P. M., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), ICPSR34409-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 11-20.

EDUS 660 #2: Sign me up for the undertaking

“To err is human; to admit it, superhuman.” Doug Larson

I selected this image for several reasons.  It makes me shake my head and laugh.  Humans are gullible and some are more so than others.

When considering what to post for an article, editorial or blog regarding errors, I thought about how our history lessons remind us of times when believing a reassuring lie was far too easy for society to do.  Each time  I hear Orsen Well’s rendition of War of the Worlds I am reminded of how inconvenient truths, such as those that may surround the government, religion or science, are difficult to swallow regardless of the research behind them.

It's easy to believe a well crafted lie.

It’s easy to believe a well-crafted lie.While this radio broadcast was terrifying for many, our understanding of Martians was not based on scientific fact, but rather on cultural ideas.

In this week’s  “Food for Thought” blog, I am asked to consider the common errors of human inquiry. While I have relatively little experience in these errors as far as research is concerned, I have seen them unfold in novels, movies and nonfiction work.  As a public educator, I collected experiences of students in annotated format for Child Study purposes as well as for educational research purposes.

While Orsen Well’s radio broadcast was well before my time, scandal regarding the Nestle Corporation and the marketing of baby formula to mothers in underdeveloped countries was within my time. Business Insider’s Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History of Infant Formula reminds us how mother’s around the world trusted the research to help them to become Westernized in the way in which they cared for their children.  In 1982, New Internationalist magazine drew attention to the way in which science, business, and marketing used babies to promote products.

Source: newinter.org/features/1982/04/01/babies

In her blog, All Parenting, Janelle Hanchette, continues to ask, “Is Nestle Still Making Poor Choices with Baby Formula?” Nearly 40 years later Nestle, one of the largest food distributors in the world, is still being scrutinized for these behaviors.

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

A Degree of precision vs. inaccurate observations-

Measurement devices guard against inaccurate observations and allow the researcher to be more deliberate when making observations.  Ask two individuals what they saw and you’ll get two different responses.  There’s no guessing in science.

Babbie presents a selection of  errors common to social science research  for novice research students (2015). Rather than simply regurgitate the examples, I consider how I may apply the solutions he presented to both this course and future research.

Failing to plan may mean planning to fail-

This is an old adage. It’s one that I’ve used to when speaking to my students and one that I have used when admonishing myself. New ideas regarding research ask me to consider how have I reacted to pressure to come to a conclusion in the past?  I also need to consider now how to plan for ways to avoid capitulating to pressure, if faced with it in the future.   My research inquiry may be misdirected if I give into the pressure to just find an idea and then move on.

Babbie’s example of the reporter who failed to wait long enough to get “the whole story” is a good reminder to allow time to conduct thorough research and investigation.  Skimming the top for basic ideas can result in highly inaccurate results. The editor with egg on his face will think twice before assigning another important story to a rookie reporter.  A foundation or department will think twice before allowing an inept researcher to participate in an important study if s/he takes shortcuts when drawing conclusions.

A swat to “pithy” sayings 

There is always one person in every crowd who delights in breaking the rules.  The concept that there is an”exception that proves the rule” is illogical.  Where do rules come from and why do individuals perpetuate them?  Group stereotypes may help to diffuse cognitive dissonance, yet impede accurate observations. Robert Wooley‘s post What is the “Gambler’s Fallacy” illustrates the example provided by Babbie regarding illogical reasoning. Engaging my research with others around me will help to not only keep me honest, but remind me to use logical reasoning when considering observations. Babbie reminds us that science “…attempts to protect us from the common pitfalls of ordinary inquiry.” He goes on to say that “observing and understanding reality is not an obvious or trivial matter.” Pithy sayings and science just don’t jive well.

Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow!

Babbie cautions me to remember that scientific understanding of the world is ever changing.  When old knowledge is replaced by new knowledge the importance of continuous research on the part of social scientists provides me with hope for tomorrow.  Babbie referenced the work of Sam Arbesman at the conclusion of the section regarding errors in human inquiry.  While twelve minutes in length, it’s worth the time when considering how vital research is to the advancement of our society.

If what Arbesman suggests about old knowledge and new knowledge is true then young social researchers would benefit from the replication of research study.  In doing so, we would learn how to conduct testing, determine how the results were derived while suggesting new methods to explore the topic.

When considering how you know what you know-

  • Which aspect of your knowledge of human behavior have changed since the beginning of your graduate course of study?
  • Which aspect of your knowledge have either decayed or may do so over time?

Work Cited

Babbie, E. (2015). The practice of social research. Cengage Learning.